Kentucky Coffee Tree

Gymnocladus dioicus

The Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) would make a great addition to any yard. The tree produces round, brown pods that were once substituted for coffee. Many people choose this species since it has no issues with disease or insects. The Kentucky coffee tree is hardy and will withstand pollution and storms.

Kentucky Tree Attributes

The leaves on the Kentucky coffee tree are the largest of all native North American trees. In the springtime, the female trees will produce star-shaped, white flowers that bloom along the branches. These blooms are fragrant and have a rose-like scent. This tree is one of the last trees to leaf out in the springtime. Those seed pods sprout in the spring and grow up to five to ten inches in length. When they first develop, the pods are green in color and turn brown throughout the winter.

The large, bipinnately compound leaves grow up to three feet long, and many branches have hundreds of small leaflets. These leaves add a fine-textured charm throughout the summer growing season. When the seasons start to change, you can expect the younger leaves to turn into a bronze hue as older leaves age to a dark green color. These large leaves will develop a golden color in the fall before dropping. With one large drop, you will have a hassle-free cleanup during this season.

The Kentucky coffee tree does not have twiggy branching. Instead, the tree has an open growth habit that creates a narrow silhouette with a rounded crown. This shape will look great in the winter. Along with that, the dark brown, furrowed bark creates a spectacular display for your holiday decor.

This tree will give your landscape a soft, dappled shade. With the shade, you can grow perennials, shrubs, and bulbs under the tree without worrying if they will get enough light. You will not have to worry about care and maintenance with these trees. The Kentucky coffee tree is tolerant of droughts and adaptable in most soil types.

Kentucky Coffee Tree



  • height: max. 30 m (99 ft)
  • leaf: The leaves of Kentucky coffee tree are green, pinnately compound with 6 – 18 leaflets. The leaf is up to 90 cm (35.4 in) long. The leaflets are ovate and 5 – 7 cm (2 – 2.8 in) long. The leaf margin is smooth.
  • leaf shape: pinnated
  • leaf margin: smooth
  • leaf position: alternate
  • fall foliage: bright yellow
  • flowering: May – June
  • blossom color: greenish-white
  • blossom description: The male flowers are greenish-white up to 10 cm (3.9 in) tall, as corymb. The female flowers form a panicle up to 30 cm (11.8 in) in length.
  • gender distribution: dioecious / unisexual
  • fruit: Brown legumes to about 25 cm (9.8 in) in length with 6-9 seeds.
  • branches: The branches are brown, thick, gnarled and hardly fine branched.
  • bark: The bark is brown, deeply furrowed and scaly.
  • root: Deep-rooting plant
  • location: Sun
  • soil: fresh-drained soils
  • ph value: slightly acidic to alkaline

Landscape Uses for Kentucky Coffee Tree

If you are looking for a tree to help with energy conservation, the Kentucky coffee tree is the species for you. The large leaves shield your house from the summer heat and provide easy cleanup in the fall. You can enjoy the warm winter sun since the tree does not overbear any space near your home.

These trees make lovely trees to line a street, and they are sturdy enough to withstand intense storms. For those with large commercial spaces, this tree would look great paired with shrubs, perennials, and other large trees.

The Kentucky coffee tree creates an excellent delineation between your manicured landscape and native woods. These trees can be grouped together for those who want to add a nature grove to their spaces. This variety of trees make great shelterbelts and windbreaks. As the large leaves sway in the wind, you can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing environment.

Planting and Growing

This tree will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. The Kentucky coffee tree grows to a height of 60 to 75 feet, and they will spread to 40 to 50 feet when fully matured. This tree has a slow to medium growth rate. You can expect height increases of 12 to 24 inches per year.

This tree prefers to grow in moist and well-draining soil. However, it can adapt to almost all types of soils. Once the tree is established, the Kentucky coffee tree is very tolerant of drought conditions. As the tree matures, the growth rate will slow, but you can expect some rapid growth in the first few years. If you want to develop a strong structure, it is best to prune in the early spring. Kentucky coffee trees should be planted in areas with full sun for six hours per day.

Order a Kentucky Coffee Tree Today!

Gymnocladus dioicus

This robust tree is an excellent choice for parks, yards, or other large spaces. It will make a great addition as a street or an ornamental tree. Throughout the seasons, the tree’s profile will stand out with its narrow crown. For those who want added shade, you cannot go wrong with the Kentucky coffee tree.

If you want to add this tough and historical tree to your inventory, Arbor Valley Nursery is here to help you. Please take a few minutes to fill out the contact form to learn more about this tree.

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